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Peppernut Cookies (AKA Pfeffernusse): Bite-Sized Fun

Preview: Peppernut Cookies (AKA Pfefernusse) are bite-sized cookies with a European heritage. Perfect for gift-giving or holiday parties.

These cookies won the Star-Telegram Christmas cookie contest a while back. Or maybe it was second place. I’m not sure. Anyway, I printed the details and stuck them in my someday-I-want-to-try-this file.

Crunchy Gingerbread Bites in a bowl along with cookies packaged for gift-giving

When I heard our church needed cookies for the Christmas baskets we give to the older and less mobile members, I dug out this recipe. It was the perfect opportunity to experiment because I would have something to do with them besides stuff my face. They are tempting–sorta like, “I dare you to eat just one.”

Why these cookies make excellent gifts:

  1. They don’t crumble.
  2. They stay fresh and delicious for up to 3 weeks or can be frozen.
  3. No decorating required.

Are peppernuts and pfeffernusse the same thing?

Yes.  Peppernuts are the English translation of pfeffernusse. You can read about it on Wikipedia.

These miniature sweets are some trouble, officially qualifying them as Christmas cookies. However, I’ve figured out if you want to be labeled a Christmas cookie, you must be either red, green, or labor-intensive.  Do you agree?

Now I’m not saying these cookies are difficult to make. On the contrary, they couldn’t be easier. It just takes a chunk of time to cut all those little pieces of dough. Don’t worry. The last tray only took about a third of the time of the first tray.

Ingredients and substitutions:

  • BUTTER: Butter gives these cookies an irresistible crispy, crunchy texture and a buttery taste. Since this recipe is probably a once-a-year treat, I would splurge and use nothing else.
  • SUGAR: Granulated sugar is best.
  • EGG: The recipe specifies a large egg.
  • DARK SYRUP: You have several possibilities: dark corn syrup, molasses, or date syrup.
  • FLOUR: My first choice would be unbleached all-purpose flour. Bleached all-purpose flour is a close second.
  • SPICES: The spices are important in this recipe. Even more important–make sure your spices are FRESH.
  • ANISE FLAVORING: The anise is optional, but characteristic of this cookie. I hope you can find it and use it.

How to make Peppernut Cookies:

  1. Whip room-temperature butter until light and fluffy. If your butter is frozen or refrigerator firm, try grating it to warm it up quick. Resist the urge to put the butter in the microwave. Melted butter will not become “light and fluffy.”
  2. Add the sugar and room-temperature egg. Continue to beat.
  3. Add the flour and spices in the order specified in the recipe.
  4. Preheat oven.
  5. Cut off a section of the dough and roll it into a pencil or rope shape. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the rope into small pieces.
  6. Bake at 350˚ for 7-9 minutes.
portioning dough for peppernuts

Initially, I thought I would roll each little ball by hand.  HA! There must be about a thousand per batch. People eat them by the handfuls, so trying to make them look perfect is wasted energy.

tray of Pfeffernusse

To package them, I put about 3/4 cup in each cellophane bag (available at craft stores) and tied each package with red raffia. A cute Christmas label would have been excellent. (Sigh) Maybe next year.

FAQ about Peppernut Cookies:

Did you mean to leave out “rolling the cookies in powdered sugar?”

Powdered sugar is traditional in Germany, and maybe other places, too. If you want to do that, drop your warm cookies in a plastic bag containing a cup of powdered sugar. Gently shake it to distribute the sugar and pour the cookies out onto a towel to dry. If your want the cookies to be thickly covered, repeat the process after the first coat of powdered sugar dries.

Can I make these cookies ahead of time?

Yes. Some people intentionally make them a month ahead of time, hoping the flavor will get better as they age a bit.

Can I freeze the baked cookies?

Yes, Double-wrap to prevent freezer burn.

Did you enjoy this recipe? If so, you can help others and me by leaving a 5-star 🤩 rating in the recipe below. No comment is required.

p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at

Hope to see you again soon!

Yield: 100 cookies

Peppernuts (Pfeffernusse) Recipe


These crispy bite-size cookies are reminiscent of gingerbread. Also known as Pfeffernusse.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 9 minutes


  • 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) (230 gr)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar (300 gr)
  • 1 egg, beaten (50 gr)
  • 2 tablespoons dark syrup (I used date syrup but dark corn syrup or molasses is also good)
  • 3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (420 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise flavoring (optional)


  1. Whip room-temperature butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and egg and continue to beat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients in order given.
  3. Pull off small pieces of dough and roll to the thickness of a pencil. Slice into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. Place on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350˚F for 7-9 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 176Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 52mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 0gSugar: 18gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Amanda Benson

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

For some reason I don’t see the butter on the ingredients list, but I’ve made these every year for a while, so I know it’s been there in the past. Is it still there on your end?


Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Hi Amanda,

If you were standing here, I would give you a big hug for catching this. I updated this post over the summer, and somehow, the butter got deleted. I have corrected it. The recipe calls for 1 cup of butter.


Friday 18th of December 2020

Hi....I am making the Crunchy Gingerbread Bites and it seems like I have way too much dough for your directions. I am making the ropes larger than a pencil but smaller than a cigar. I cut the pieces in 1/2 cuts and I will have way more than your “33 yield”.....Or did you mean with 3 servings for the nutritional directions that it is a 99 bite yield? Thanks...


Sunday 20th of December 2020

Hi Maggie,

My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. We had our family Christmas yesterday, so I didn't have a chance to respond.

I can see how you got confused. Yes, the recipe makes approximately 100 little pieces but since there is no exact measuring going on, everybody will cut their cookies slightly differently so the number will vary. Only one little piece would be a small serving so I counted three.

I'm curious. How many pieces did you get in the end. Did you count them? Hope they were good.


Thursday 19th of December 2019

I had a Lutheran women's group (with Germanic ancestors) make these and I've been searching for a similar recipe ever since. This looks more like what they made than anything else I've seen online.

Quick question. Do you really use anise essential oil (food grade)? I read online that anise extract is 4X less potent, so 1/2 oil tsp= 2 tsp of extract. I'm assuming that 2 tsp would water down the dough. Have you ever made it with extract? Where do you get the anise oil? I've seen it in stores that sell essential oils, but never in the big box stores' baking isles.


Thursday 19th of December 2019

I checked my cabinet to see exactly what I used. It's called "Natural Anise Flavor" from BOYAJIAN. It is not oil. I will correct the recipe.

Thank you for writing to ask. Hope you get to make them and love them.


Saturday 16th of November 2019

I've been looking for a good recipe for these and ran across your blog. My German grandmother, who came over to America on 'the boat', used to make pfeffernusse every year. The online recipes for, supposedly authentic, pfeffernusse are all over the map. Going to give these a try as they are said to be crunchy, as Grandma's cookies were. By the way, her's were quite small cookies, but when helping her, I remember forming ropes of cookie dough that were more like the diameter of maybe a cigar, than a pencil, and then slicing them up, I suppose the size is optional ;)


Tuesday 19th of November 2019

If you make these, I hope they turn out crunchy like your Grandmother's cookies.


Thursday 21st of December 2017

Dumb question but when you say soda you mean baking soda right?


Thursday 21st of December 2017

Yes. Baking soda.

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